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Pumpkin patch helps Oakland get into Halloween spirit

on October 9, 2008

story, photos and video by KRISTINE WONG

At the Piedmont Pumpkin Patch, Halloween is serious business.  Patch owner Jon Goldstein has stocked his grounds,  near the corner of Piedmont and Pleasant Valley Avenues, with 15 types of pumpkins and an eclectic assortment of decorations and paraphernalia — and created a haunted house to boot. Goldstein, an Oakland resident who works as a sound engineer in the Halloween off-season, has run the patch for the last 12 years. His motivation? “It’s fun,” he says.

Since it opened 20 years ago, the corner outdoor lot at the intersection of Piedmont and Pleasant Valley Avenues has become the place to go for locals in search of the perfect pumpkin. Last year, when the land was sold, customers worried that the pumpkin patch would not return to the neighborhood. But Goldstein was able to secure a location within short walking distance of the original site by renting part of the J. Miller Flower and Gifts shop on Piedmont Avenue.

The Big Mac pumpkin is one of 15 types available at the Piedmont Pumpkin Patch

The Big Mac pumpkin is one of 15 types available at the Piedmont Pumpkin Patch

Goldstein starts his preparation for the opening of the pumpkin patch as early as March, when he attends a Halloween and party supplies convention. This year, the convention took place in Las Vegas, where attendees previewed the latest innovations and products in the Halloween niche market.

Though his Halloween shop is decorated and stocked with kitschy items — such as a pair of two-foot ghouls singing “I Got You Babe” à la Sonny and Cher — Goldstein says the best sellers are always classics: pumpkin carving knives, drop-down spiders, spider webbing, and candles.

Goldstein’s customers also prefer classic pumpkins as well. Despite the presence of exotic types in various hues of red-orange, green, and white – christened with unusual names such as “Cinderella,” “Racer,” “World of Color,” Big Mac,” “Jarradale,” and “Cotton Candy” — the most popular are the orange Sugar Pies. The pumpkins come from farms in Pescadero, located in the San Mateo County coastline area.

Goldstein says the patch holds significance for many who frequently visited in their youth. “Many kids started coming here when they were 5 and are in college now,” he says. “They come back because it holds a lot of childhood memories.”

Oopy is the resident mascot of the pumpkin patch

Oopy is the resident mascot of the pumpkin patch

“One girl would come in every year for the smallest pumpkin,” Goldstein remembers. “Now that she’s away at college, her mother comes by instead – and mails the pumpkin to her in Massachusetts.”

But the most popular attraction of all, Goldstein says, is Oopy, the patch’s 9-year old dachsund, who gets in the spirit by wearing a necklace festooned with orange and black ribbons, and eating raw pumpkin from a spoon. “Some people don’t care about the pumpkins,” he says. “They just come to see Oopy.”

Location:  Piedmont Pumpkin Patch and Haunted House, 4414 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

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